WSU, Wichita Public Schools Work With Smart Phone App To Help After Concussions

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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Three-sport Wichita East High School athlete Eileen Vlamis is used to close calls, both on the scoreboard and on the court.

"One time a teammate and I were both running after a loose ball and we both dove for it and she ended up elbowing me in the head really hard," Vlamis said.

She hasn't had a concussion, but says she has seen her brother suffer one. He had to deal with a weeks-long recovery.

"I didn't realize it affected you for that long," Vlamis said.

So, Vlamis is excited that she and the other student athletes in Wichita USD 259 are part of a pilot program to help tell when it's safe to play after a concussion.

The program is conducted by Wichita State University researchers in the Department of Human Performance Studies.

Wichita's USD 259 is the only district in the nation that is part of the pilot program.

"It's one more tool for me to take the very best care of my athletes," USD 259 Head Athletic Trainer Jennifer Hudson said. "It's one more tool I can use to send information to the doctor because with concussions our doctors make all our decisions as far as return to play."

The program centers around a smart phone application developed by Capacity Sports. The company's CEO, Chase Curtiss, is a Wichita State University graduate, researchers said.

The application does not diagnose a concussion. It tests balance, utilizing the tiny devices within the phone that measure gravitational force. Balance is one of many functions that can be disrupted by a concussion.

"It's not that we are trying to see how great someone's balance is," said Dr. Jeremy Patterson, Wichita State College of Education Associate Professor and Human Performance Labratory Director. "We want to see what their balance is before they get some type of neurological condition."

The baseline data they are gathering now will give them a normal level to compare to after an injury. That data will give trainers a solid reference point so they have more than the subjective answers to questions of: 'How are you? and How do you feel?'

"This is a tool that will assist the athletic trainers in what they already have," Patterson said.

Researchers say the app is already FDA approved. They say because it measures balance, it can be used for more than just this work with concussions.

Vlamis says having been tested three times, she has already seen that in action.

"When I first got tested, I was still recovering from ACL surgery but when I got tested again in the fall, my balance had shot up a ton more," Vlamis said.

Researchers say eventually the application should go public and you'll be able to download it on your phone.

"I like being a part of helping them develop that," Vlamis said.

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